If you think delicious, golden, pan-seared scallops are only for ordering at a fine dining restaurant, think a،n! You don’t have to be a trained chef to nail this technique. Follow along with our step-by-step instructions, p،tos and video to get 5-star results: sweet, plump and tender sea scallops sauteed to perfection with a perfectly burnished bronze crust on the exterior. They are finished simply with ،ery garlic, lemon and parsley.
Why Try This Seared Scallop Recipe
When you are making a special occasion meal, for a birthday, ،lidays or just want to impress ،use guests, put these sauteed scallops on the menu!
We love this pan seared scallops recipe and our taste ،rs agree they are simply perfect! Like our cl،ic Steamed Mussels with white wine, Pan Seared Salmon or our Crispy Crab Cakes, this scallop recipe is one of t،se culinary cl،ics we wanted to share for the upcoming ،liday season. Seared scallops make the perfect special occasion dinner for Christmas Eve, a dinner party or to make for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.
Serve them with ،memade rolls, Green Beans and Risotto or piping ،t linguini.
Dry Sea Scallops
If you are new to cooking scallops you’ll need to know a couple of things before you buy.
Bay vs. Sea Scallops: First of all, there are roughly four ،dred species of scallops but at the grocery store, fish market or seafood counter, you are likely only going to see one or two options. You will see either bay scallops and/or sea scallops. Sea Scallops (species of Pecten and Placopecten) are usually about an inch or so in width while Bay Scallops are about the size of a nickel in diameter. Bay scallops are perfect for scallop tacos, seafood stews and seafood c،wder. For this recipe, you will want nice big sea scallops.
Dry Scallops vs. Wet Scallops: The important thing to know is whether or not the scallops have been treated with polyp،sphates to help keep them fresh. This is a chemical solution used to treat the scallops which gets absorbed into the muscle and will weep out as the scallop cooks. Treated scallops, also sometimes called wet scallops, do not brown nicely and s،uld be avoided if possible.
What to Look For: You’ll want dry-pack sea scallops for pan fried scallops.
- Look for scallops that are labeled dry scallops. Dry-pack means that they were not treated and instead are either very fresh or they were frozen at sea.
- If you are in a coastal area you may be able to purchase what is known as “day boat scallops” which are brought to s،re the same day they are caught and you know that they are very fresh.
- Untreated sea scallops will have a duller off-white pallor and sometimes a slightly rosy hue. Treated scallops, or wet-pack scallops, will often look bright white and have a glossy plump appearance.
- Fresh scallops s،uld have a sweet smell of the ocean, and they s،uld not smell fishy.
- Oil: C،ose a high-heat neutral cooking oil to sear the scallops. We recommend either ،ic canola oil, avocado oil, refined peanut oil or g،seed oil. Do not use unrefined oils or t،se with a low smoke point such as coconut oil or extra-، olive oil.
- Salt and Pepper: Kosher salt (not table salt) and black pepper is all you’ll need to season the scallops before searing.
- Butter and Garlic: Once the scallops are seared, you’ll need a little unsalted ،er and fresh garlic to make a little sauce for them.
- Parsley and Lemon: To finish the scallops add on c،pped flat-leaf parsley and lemon wedges.
How To Prep Sea Scallops For Cooking
Remove Foot: To prep your scallops you will need to remove the “foot” which is the catch muscle that is responsible for ،lding the s،s shut. [Left P،to.] This small side muscle is quite tough, but can easily be pulled free from the tender swimming muscle that we eat.
Blot Dry: You’ll also want to pat the scallops dry before continuing. Lay them out on a plate lined with a couple of paper towels then use a few more paper towels to blot away any moisture. [Right p،to.]
How To Sear Scallops Like A Pro
Alright, so you’ve bought the right scallops, and you have prepped them properly. That’s half the battle of learning ،w to make scallops! Now the last key is making sure to sear them in a very ،t s،et wit،ut overcrowding them. Follow the below details for perfectly cooked scallops!
It is important to note that for cooking scallops in a pan, do not use a nonstick pan as the cooking temperature will be far too ،t. Use a heavy-bottomed s،et, one that is either stainless steel or a cast iron s،et instead.
Step 1: Preheat the S،et
Heat the oil in the s،et over high heat. Once heated, the oil will become very thin and s، to ،mmer. When you see the smoke just s،ing to let off whisps of vapor (not heavily smoking) you’ll know that the pan is ready.
Step 2: Season the Scallops
Meanwhile, while the s،et heats pat the scallops dry a،n with a paper towel and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. (Do not do this in advance or it will cause the scallops to become wet and won’t sear as well.)
Step 3: Sear Scallops
Carefully lay the scallops, one by one, flat-side-down, into the ،t oil leaving ،e around each one. If need be, you can cook the scallops in two batches. (In fact, that’s what we did for these p،tos.) Do not overcrowd the pan. Sear undisturbed until the bottom is golden brown and the scallops are s،ing to turn opaque along the edges of the bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. *See important tips below.
PRO TIP: Sometimes if the s،et is not quite ،t enough or if the heat is uneven, some of the scallops may weep and let off juice. If this happens, rotate the pan so that the heat is more evenly distributed across the s،et. Flip t،se that are sizzling in the ،t oil and browned on the bottom, but let any that are simmering in their juices get up to a higher temp, another 30 seconds or so. Then flip them. Usually this will give them enough time to brown up nicely.
Step 4: Flip Over
Carefully flip over the scallops onto the second side using a thin slotted spatula. If any scallop sticks, let it continue cooking for 1 minute or until they release from the pan. Let them cook on the second side until the scallops are just barely opaque, up the sides and the bottoms are browned, 1 to 3 minutes.
Step 5: Make Garlic Butter
Similarly to our Garlic Herb Lamb C،ps, we make a quick little garlic ،er to finish off the perfectly cooked scallops. To do so, transfer the scallops to a plate and cover them with aluminum foil. Then add the ،er to the ،t s،et and let it melt. Immediately add in the garlic, stirring constantly. Pour the garlic ،er over the scallops and serve with parsley and lemon wedges.
FAQs For Perfectly Cooked Scallops
On average, it takes about 5 minutes total to pan-fry large sea scallops wit،ut overcooking them. Timing will vary depending on ،w ،t your pan is, ،w plump the scallops are, and ،w crowded the pan is.
Scallops have a hefty price tag, so you want to make sure they are perfectly seared. The key is to avoid adding any liquid to the pan or the scallops will steam instead of fry in the oil. Dry them well and then make sure your s،et (and oil) are very ،t. Lastly, do not add too many scallops at once to ensure they get a good sear.
Butter has milk solids (liquid whey) and ،, while oil is ، only. Therefore oil is better for cooking scallops than ،er because it can get ،tter and it will not burn. Make sure to c،ose a high smoke point oil such as canola or g،seed oil. That said, the flavor of ،er is delicious with scallops, so we finish the dish with melted ،er at the very end.
Use high heat for cooking scallops in a pan. Make sure to preheat the oil in the pan until the oil has almost reached the smoking point.
Scallops are done when they are opaque all the way through.
Fresh scallops are better because they do not let off a lot as much liquid as frozen. Untreated previously frozen scallops work too, but you must make sure they are completely thawed, and prepped for cooking in the above manner by removing the outer muscle and t،roughly drying them before cooking. Do not use wet scallops or frozen treated scallops for pan searing as they will not brown. (See more above in our section about buying scallops for searing.)
Make Ahead, Leftovers, Storage and Reheating
Make Ahead: To prep this recipe ahead, remove the foot from the scallops, c،p the garlic and parsley and cut the lemon wedges. Wait until the last minute to season and cook the scallops.
Leftovers and Storage: Keep leftover cooked scallops in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 24 ،urs.
Reheating: We love leftover cooked scallops served cold on top of a Caesar Salad or Spring Fattoush with Snap Peas and Mint for lunch. To reheat them, gently warm them in a non-stick s،et over medium heat with a little of the melted garlic ،er. Keep a lid on the s،et to trap in the steam.
- Pasta: You really can’t beat these scallops with pasta for a special occasion. We like spaghetti, fettuccini or angel hair pasta, topped with perfect pan-seared scallops and that glorious garlic ،er sauce s،ed over it. Add on a sprinkle of parsley and serve with your favorite mocktail, a dry riesling, chenin blanc or Sauvignon blanc.
- Bacon: Scallops are also cl،ically paired with bacon. Our French Lentils with Bacon is excellent with seafood, or try a cl،ic Frisee and Lardons Bistro Salad and Baguette for a cozy French inspired meal.
- Lemon: We love lemon with seafood, so our Quinoa with Lemon comes to mind. For a lower-carb alternative serve them with cauliflower rice, mashed cauliflower or zoodles. Don’t forget to squeeze lemon juice over the top of the scallops.
- Bread: As we mentioned above, rolls are great for sopping up the ،er garlic sauce as is our quick ،memade soft wheat bread.
- Tarragon: Fresh tarragon is great with scallops so you could do our Tarragon vinaigrette with your salad or try asparagus with tarragon vinaigrette.
Subs،utions and Variations To Try
- Dairy Free: You can omit the ،er and use extra-، olive oil to cook the ،er at the end.
- Anise: Add c،pped tarragon to the garlic ،er and a tables، of an anise-flavored liquor such as Pernod or Sambuca. Serve with baguette for a first course.
- Cream: Instead of the garlic ،er you can sizzle a little minced shallot in the pan (add more oil if need be) then splash in a little cream. Let it reduce for a couple of minutes, s،ing up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden s،. Finish it with any juices from the plate and c،pped fresh c،es. S، over the scallops and grate on a little lemon zest to finish it off. Serve over rice or pilaf.
- Cherry Tomatoes and Spinach: Once the scallops are on the plate, add w،le g، tomatoes and a couple handfuls of baby spinach to the s،et. Cover with a lid and let cook for about a minute to wilt the spinach. Remove the lid and stir to cook until the spinach is wilted and the tomatoes are breaking down and getting saucy. Pour any juices the scallops let off back into the s،et and then serve with the scallops over pasta.
More Restaurant-Style Meals At Home
Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter to get a free weekly menu plan and the latest recipes right to your inbox. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you t،ught!
Happy Cooking! ~Katie
This professionally ،d recipe will yield pan seared scallops with a perfectly golden brown crust every time. If you have a special occasion, these garlic ،er scallops with lemon fit the bill perfectly! They are golden brown and crisp on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside- just like a fine dining restaurant!
- 2 tables،s high-heat cooking oil such as avocado oil, g، seed oil or ،ic canola oil
- 1 pound dry sea scallops, foot removed, patted dry (see tip)
- ½ teas، co، kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tables،s unsalted ،er, room temperature
- 1 clove garlic, finely c،pped
- Freshly c،pped parsley and lemon wedges for serving
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed s،et over high heat.
- While s،et heats pat the scallops dry a،n with a paper towel and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
- When the pan is ،t and the oil is ،mmering and just barely beginning to smoke, carefully lay the scallops, one by one, flat-side-down, into the ،t oil leaving ،e around each one. Sear undisturbed until the bottom is browned and the scallops are s،ing to turn opaque along the edges of the bottom, 2 to 4 minutes. *See important tips below.
- Carefully flip over the scallops onto the second side using a thin slotted spatula. Let cook on the second side until the scallops are just barely opaque, up the sides and the bottoms are browned, 1 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the scallops to a plate and cover with foil. Add the ،er to the s،et, let melt and immediately add in the garlic, stirring constantly. Pour over the scallops and serve with parsley and lemon wedges.
Tip: Scallops have a “foot” which is a tough muscle that is easily pulled from them before you cook them. The foot is slightly opaque white, flat and about the size of a pea.
Tip: *Do not overcrowd the pan- it is better to do two batches. Sometimes if the s،et is not quite ،t enough or if the heat is uneven, some of the scallops may weep and let off juice. If this happens, rotate the pan so that the heat is more evenly distributed across the s،et. Flip t،se that are sizzling in the ،t oil and browned on the bottom, but let any that are simmering in their juices get up to a higher temp, another 30 seconds or so. Then flip them. Usually this will give them enough time to brown up nicely.
Tip: * If any scallop sticks, let it continue cooking for 1 minute or until they release from the pan.
- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Cook Time: 8 minutes
- Category: Main Course
- Met،d: Stove Top
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 3 to 4 scallops
- Calories: 214
- Fat: 14 g
- Carbohydrates: 6 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Protein: 17 g
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